The following article appeared in The Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers (Autumn 2012, The Wool Issue 243, page 34). The Journal is produced by the Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. You can find out more about the Guild at www.wsd.org.uk and about the Journal at www.thejournalforwsd.org.uk.
I wrote in Journal 238 (Summer 2011) about the background and aims of my collaborative knitting project Give Fleece A Chance. A flock of small knitted sheep has been made from handspun and commercial yarns that use wool sourced in South West England, particularly Devon and Cornwall. I found many farm-branded commercially spun yarns and generous sheep farmers who donated fleeces, often with the challenging words ‘See what you can do with that!’ Greyface Dartmoor, handspun into something resembling coir string, also proved to be a challenge to knit! But it is these ‘low-value’ coarse wools that have made the most charming individual sheep; the commercial yarns pale against them. I have exhibited the flock at country shows and textile fairs and encouraged people into looking again at British wool and appreciating the diversity of texture, handle and colour.
An online Wool Directory (www.wooldirectory.org.uk) has emerged out of this project, a resource giving easier access to local fleeces and yarns, encouraging people to buy from the farm gate and to use wool creatively and commercially. It has already been used by textile and fashion students researching sustainable fibres and so is proving to be of value to those of us that love using the diverse sheep breeds.
In the 18 months since the project began, 250 sheep have been made, representing 70 different fleeces, 118 yarns and 40 breeds (not including crosses). I was helped by 76 knitters, many of whom handspun the yarn too. The project is continuing, so if you have any SW produced wool in a breed I haven’t got, I’d be really grateful for some fleece, even more if it’s ready spun and if it’s ready knitted! The sheep pattern is free for everyone to use for whatever purpose, but if you do make some sheep, please send one for my flock.
Posted in Art and Craft, Events, Fleece, Yarn Suppliers | Tagged cornish wool, cornish wools, dartmoor, Devon, devon wool, dyers, fleece, give fleece a chance, handspinning, knitted sheep, knitting patterns, local wool, sheep, South West wool, spinners, the Journal, weavers, wool, Wool Directory, wool initiative, WSD, yarn | 1 Comment »
Here’s a film about the Give Fleece A Chance project. It was made by Brent Zillwood and Richard Craig, two Plymouth College of Art film students. Some great shots of yarn spinning and moody shots of the sheep. It was made last December (2010) so the facts and figures are a bit out of date: we now have 250 sheep not the 86 I mention in the film. Have a look and I hope it inspires you to use British wool, knit a sheep or start a flock of your own.
Thanks to Brent and Richard for a great film. You can see more of their work on Vimeo.
Posted in Fleece, Uncategorized | Tagged Brent Zillwood, film students, fleece, handspinning, handspun yarn, how to handspin, how to knit, knitted sheep, knitting video, plymouth college of art, Richard Craig, sheep film, sheep video, yarn | Leave a Comment »
I had a very lovely parcel through the post the other day; a chocolate box full of sheep. Six sheep packed snugly, clearly labeled. They were knitted by EH from Exeter using fleece from around Devon and Cornwall spun into yarn using a drop spindle. The breeds are Devon Closewool (Mid Devon), Manx Loaghtan (South Devon), and Hebridean (East Cornwall). The only thing missing were the chocs; wonder where they went.
Six sheep in a chocolate box
Posted in Fleece | Tagged Devon Closewool, drop spindle, handspun yarn, Hebridean, knitted sheep, manx loaghtan, wool | Leave a Comment »
Wool Directory stand
Over the past couple of months, I have been working with the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW) on developing an online Wool Directory. This has evolved from the research that I gathered through Give Fleece A Chance. The Wool Directory lists South West wool producers with the aim of connecting them more easily with people who want to use local fleece.
To promote the Directory, we have been to a couple of shows in Devon; the Devon County Show and the National Sheep Association event near Paignton. Both events went really well and we had plenty of positive feedback from producers and users alike. If you want to have a look at the Directory, you can find it here www.wooldirectory.org.uk. Use it to source SW fleece and yarn, and also to see how textile designers and makers are using wool. We’ve also got a page for events, so if you’re planning a wool themed event please let us know.
Here are some photos from the Devon County show. I’ve put some more on our Flickr site www.flickr.com/photos/givefleeceachance where you can also see 185 knitted sheep.
Judging sheep at Devon County Show
Black Welsh Mountain
Devon and Cornwall Longwool
Posted in Events, Uncategorized | Tagged Devon and Cornwall Longwool, Devon County Show, Exmoor Horn, fleece, judging sheep, sheep, Wool Directory, Zwartbles | Leave a Comment »
Just been sent two more photos of sheep for the ScotFlock. One is crocheted, the other is a Zwartbles. ScotFlock is going to include crochet, felt, woven and natural dyes so it will be exciting to see how the flock grows.
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Fantastic news! The SW flock now have cousins in Scotland. ScotFlock has been started by The Wool Bothy, who needs help to add to the flock. Anyone who wants to get involved in sourcing and promoting Scottish wool, please contact ScotFlock either via Ravelry (search ‘ScotFlock’) or Twitter (@ScotFlock) or if you leave a comment here I’ll pass on your details.
Here’s a photo of the first ScotFlock sheep: a Zwartbles from Caithness. The first of many I’m sure. If you want to start your own local flock, get in touch. Our aim is to have flocks all over the UK, promoting wool and supporting our wool producers. It’s also a great way to connect with other textile makers and groups in your area.
The first sheep in the ScotFlock.
Thanks to The Wool Bothy for starting ScotFlock; looking forward to working with her and the ScotFlock team. Two small flocks of knitted sheep at opposite ends of the UK; now all we need are a few more in between.
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Another great episode of Lambing Live last night including an interesting feature on the history of the wool industry in Britain. I didn’t know about the wool smugglers on Romney Marsh! Though I can understand the value of this fleece; I have some Romney which is beautiful to spin and knit with.
On the BBC website for the programme are a series of short films about some breeds of sheep including Jacob, Shetland and North Ronaldsay. Well worth a look here.
If you’ve found this blog through searching for Lambing Live, I’ll explain what we are doing. Give Fleece A Chance is a project to promote British wool and connect the producers (farmers, smallholders) to the users (knitters, weavers, spinners, people who want to wear British wool). Adam Henson said in last night’s episode that wool prices are rising and The Campaign For Wool are running for five years to really boost the wool industry and get consumers back to this fantastic natural product.
GFAC is doing the same in a small way. If you want to get involved, we are knitting small sheep in as many different breeds of sheep as we can to create an installation art piece to exhibit. I’m running the South West flock and have local wool I can supply you with. If you’re in another part of the country, I’d love to start up regional flocks to promote the local wool in your area. Have a look around this blog, the pattern for the sheep is here, info about me is here, the catalogue of sheep is here. There’s also a short video of the first 50 sheep on youtube here. Thanks for looking.
Posted in Events, Fleece | Tagged Adam Henson, BBC, British wool, Campaign for Wool, cornish wool, devon wool, fleece, give fleece a chance, jacob, knitted sheep, lambing live, North Ronaldsay, promoting wool, romney marshes, romney sheep, sheep, Shetland, South West wool, spinning, wool, wool industry, wool initiative, wool smuggling, yarn | Leave a Comment »